Posts tagged diverse books
The Importance of Diverse Young Adult Literature

Reading nearly a dozen young adult novels over the last few months has put a huge spin on my reading life. I previously considered Young Adult novels to be full of angst, drama, and stereotypes worthy of a dramatic eye roll. Not kidding. Clearly, I wasn't picking up the right books. Thinking back, I'm not even sure what gave me these impressions, but clearly I was tainted. Although not completely wrong.

I'm currently taking a class called, "Teaching Young Adult Literature" for graduate school. I'm halfway through a Masters in English, and most every class thus far has left an impact on me, but none so much as this one. We are required to read six diverse YA novels that have a central controversial topic. So far I've just been picking up everything that's been of interest to me from the reading list. I've only put down two. The professor made this list for us, if you're interested in seeing the reading selection. I've loved Eleanor & Park, Turtles All the Way Down, The Sun is Also A Star, and Brown Girl Dreaming. I read many others that weren't on the reading list, but some of which she discussed as we started the course and learned the history of YA literature: The Outsiders was an amazing read, and The Smell of Other People's Houses was a great coincidental library find.

What I've learned is this: YA novels can actually mean something. These books discuss difficult topics that better reflect the real world. The actual genre has been dubbed "New Adult," and holds value for topics that are important in today's society. Many of the books that are being published are giving a voice to minority writers. Not only are we seeing a growth in diverse writers, but in diverse characters as well.

What shocked me the most was that I nearly snubbed an entire genre of literature based on a few books that simply weren't for me. There are seemingly infinite books within each genre, and they are always worth exploring more. From books written in verse, poetry, fiction and non, I've felt like I've really learned something about literature as a whole. I could go on and on about the importance of what I've learned over the last month of taking this course, but I'll spare you. Mostly, I just want to encourage you to try something new, pick up something you don't think you'll like or are wary to try, you just might be surprised.

Additional resources:

Chimamanda is not only a great writer, but has this phenomenal TED Talk. I'm reading this book of hers this month.

An article on the .

Why It's Important to Read Diverse Books

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character." - Martin Luther King

WE ARE A DIVERSE CULTURE. There was a time when diversity was not seen as a good thing. Where people considered to be a minority were not well received in society. There was a time that writing a book was only done by a select few. Now, in the 21st century, we are combatting these things every day and are more accepting of skin color, cultural differences, sexual orientations, and religions than ever. I also believe that it is everyone's right to accept those differences or not. We can't change everyone, we can't take someone's freedom of choice, but we can love regardless. And that, my friends, will make all the difference.

Over the past few years, I've begun reading more than I have in my entire life. I've always been a reader, but I wasn't necessarily always a thoughtful, educated reader. I didn't branch out to find things that maybe weren't so streamlined, because I honestly just DIDN'T KNOW. I grew up in  Small Town, USA, even attending a school once where the only non-white student was turned away. I'm not kidding.

Despite that upbringing, I've learned that one of the most important elements we learn about from reading diverse books, is EMPATHY. Experiencing (even if it's only through books) the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of another person is what gives you empathy. Reading diverse books can redefine who you are, take you out of your comfort zone, and can help you be a part of something more important. By reading something different, by sharing it on social media, by talking about it or recommending it, you're showing others what is available to them; you're learning a new favorite book, you're exploring and giving marginalized voices a chance to be heard and shared with the world. To be heard is a priceless power we can give.

If you've seen on Bookstagram, people join book clubs and participate in reading challenges, all to encourage themselves and others to try something different. To open your mind and discover that there are even MORE great books out there that need love. You might ask yourself: WHY DOES IT MATTER? What difference will it make if I read that book? It matters because it opens your mind, your heart, and your knowledge of the real world. It's essential to see things differently, see things as others may, to walk in someone else's shoes, to learn, feel, and understand that there are 7 billion other DIFFERENT people in the world, and you are only one of them. It's real life and it's amazing to be a part of.

I want my children to grow up and realize they are a small part of this really big, great thing. The world. There are so many amazing places to visit, people to meet, and cultures to experience. This little slice of earth we call home is just one amazing part of what's out there for us. By learning from me, seeing what I read, and finding books for them that encourage an understanding of something new and different, and most importantly, I'm teaching them empathy. Something that we can all use more of and something that will be ingrained in them as they grow and ultimately teach others.

If you don't know where to start, consider looking at local book club choices, do a google search, or ask a friend. There are endless options out there, don't be afraid to find some. Not all of those options may be for you, but there is something, I guarantee it.

Just a few that we learned about and read over the last year are: Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neal Hurston, The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, The True Story of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman AlexieThings Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.